How to Build a Company without the Unicorn

When my cofounders and I started Scale a number of years ago, we were set on a clear goal: to help an underserved segment of the IT world. There are so many smaller businesses, school districts and municipalities that could do so much if only their IT infrastructure costs were reasonable and their technology user-friendly. So we set out to target the often misunderstood small to mid-sized business segment.

For all of the “radical” and “revolutionary” talk in the world of tech startups, most of this talk is buzzword-laden marketing. In our case, what was so “revolutionary” was that we wanted to build a sustainable, long term company focused on the regional bank, the school districts, and universities.

Building technology specifically to meet the needs of small and midsize IT, we needed a plan that was not splashy or glamourous. Our objective was to help a (large) segment work with a solution that was intuitive as well as one that would grow and expand with the small to mid-sized organization.

I’ll be honest. There’s no “public glory” in serving this market: We rolled up our shirt sleeves and made a promise that we would offer our customers an IT infrastructure that would be as easy as plugging in a piece of machinery and managing one server.

Our objective: deliver real value to our customers.

Investors sometimes say they are looking for “unicorns” – and as the buzz and hype around technology focuses on an area, sometimes gobs of money are thrown at companies in the hopes that they will be one of these unicorns.

The problem, of course, is that unicorns don’t exist. And the buzz of a particular technology segment will ebb and flow over time, with periods of excitement (“the next big thing!”) and periods of doubt (“this segment is dead!”).

For the vision I had for Scale, worrying about this buzz, and the chasing of unicorns was not going to work. We needed to build a business in a sustainable fashion, with an eye towards growth and profitability, and avoiding the pitfalls of unicorn-chasing.

The “glory” for us is not in the public buzz. Rather, our “high-five moments” come from seeing how we solve real problems in IT for our small and midsize customers. We have customers who tell us how our products have changed their lives – and have actually made IT fun again. And after 6 years of being in business, our customer satisfaction has never been higher.

In building the company this way, we’ve “quietly” amassed well over 1,000 customers in 14 countries, and we continue to grow rapidly, but sustainably and efficiently.

Over the years, we have found investors who also believe in both our long term vision and our approach to growth and profitability. I’m personally pleased to welcome ABS Capital as our newest investor. ABS Capital believes in our vision and will continue to help us serve the small to mid-sized IT community with innovative yet user-friendly and scalable solutions.

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